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Improving School Leaders' Understanding of School Health

Madia, Lauren E. (2021) Improving School Leaders' Understanding of School Health. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Because school systems are increasingly expected to provide for the wellbeing of their students, and because health and wellness are extensively intertwined with the academic outcomes of students, the capacity of school leaders to lead such initiatives is critical. However, due to lack of experience in school health roles and gaps in leadership preparation, many school leaders do not possess the knowledge and preparation to identify and champion needed change efforts.

The current study investigates the use of the School Health Index tool within a course project for doctoral-level school leaders and its impact on their understanding of school health topics and capacity to initiate needed change in these areas. The School Health Index is a free, research-based self-assessment tool from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention designed to help schools identify strengths and areas for improvement in school health domains and create action plans to address needs.

Participants in the study completed a pretest survey prior to being assigned the project (14 respondents) and a posttest survey following the completion of the course project (11 respondents). Survey questions assessed participants’ professional experience, self-reported knowledge and preparation levels, perceived self-efficacy to lead change in school health, knowledge of the School Health Index and three of its modules. The posttest included questions to assess participants’ experience using the School Health Index, including use of resources and ease of use.

Statistical analysis included descriptive statistics, Mann-Whitney U tests, and Kendall’s tau tests. The findings of the study include strong endorsement of the School Health Index tool by participants, increased self-reported preparation to lead school health initiatives, and differences between school leaders with experience in school health roles and those without such experience. The project produced practical improvement for participants. All participants were able to create a proposal for their school district and used resources embedded in the School Health Index. The School Health Index can serve as an effective tool to help school leaders drive needed change. Including such a project in a course for school leaders provided a greatly-needed opportunity for development in the area of school health.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Madia, Lauren E.lem151@pitt.edulem151
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairKerr, Mary Margaretmmkerr@pitt.edummkerr
Committee MemberTrovato, Charlenetrovato@pitt.edutrovato
Committee MemberCaparelli,
Date: 31 August 2021
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 7 June 2021
Approval Date: 31 August 2021
Submission Date: 22 July 2021
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 82
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: School of Education > Administrative and Policy Studies
Degree: EdD - Doctor of Education
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: School health, School Health Index
Date Deposited: 31 Aug 2021 17:26
Last Modified: 01 Sep 2021 20:36


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